Exploring New York’s Fascinating and Turbulent History


New York City’s history dates back to 1624 when the first Dutch colonists arrived and established a trading post, before christening the land as New Amsterdam in 1626. The real history of this region however, dates further than the 17th century, and a wealth of historic events have taken place over the last 400 years, most of which are documented in the city’s dedicated museums.


The ‘big apple’ is a city with a fascinating pat, and here are just a few of the events that helped to shape the world-famous metropolis we know today.


The first inhabitants

When the Dutch sailed into the world’s largest natural harbor over 400 years ago they were greeted by Native Americans who had lived in this area for over 5,000 years. The Iroquois were the dominant tribe and with the arrival of Europeans many Native Americans became Christians. Conflict between the natives and the newcomers were common, and wars between the settlers and the native peoples broke out intermittently over the centuries. It’s documented that Mohawk Indians, part of the Iroquois Confederacy, helped to build many of the city’s iconic landmarks we know today including the Empire State Building.


British and the revolution

The New York that visitors gaze upon today, enthralled by the bright lights and big city atmosphere, has been the setting of many battles for ownership over the years. The arrival of the English in 1665 heralded the first of many wars to gain control and it was the English who established their rule over the Dutch and rechristened the area the Province of New York. The American Revolutionary War saw a series of ongoing battles until the British eventually evacuated their ships from the harbor in 1783. George Washington was a member of the revolutionary group, the Sons of Liberty, and this secret organization, famous for organizing the Boston Tea Party, was instrumental in defending the city and finally ousting the English and their rule over the colonists.


Seek out the history

New York has many fascinating museums to explore but the New York Historical Society, founded in 1804, was the city’s first. It remains one of the best places to learn of the city’s remarkable and often violent past. A number of artifacts are held in this museum including over 300 relics that document key moments of not only the New York’s history but that of America itself. If you’ve ever wondered why New York is called the ‘big apple’, a nickname made popular by sport’s writer John Fitz Gerald in the 1920s, or if you want to view Indian Peace medals from 1757, the historical society should be on your itinerary.


The area that makes up present day New York was once inhabited by numerous tribes including the Lenape who had homes in what would is now the five boroughs; it’s documented that the Dutch actually bought Manhattan from the natives for today’s equivalent of US $24. It’s hard to imagine how this city must have looked over 400 years ago or even further back, but visiting the many museums will help you to step back into the past and gain an insight into its history.


Image by Pedro Layant used under the Creative Commons license


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